趙氏孤兒傳說 Story of the Orphan of Zhao
Inscribed list: National List, Third Batch
Inventory no.: I-88
Nominating unit(s): Shanxi Province, Yu County
屠殺期間，趙盾之子 — 趙朔囑咐其妻，晉國公主回到王宮後把懷孕中的孩子生下來。趙朔自盡後，孩子亦同時出生了，公主在自盡前把嬰孩交給醫生程嬰。
The Orphan of Zhao (趙氏孤兒) is a well-known opera work from China, as the first Chinese stage production that was translated into European languages. The Yuan dynasty Zaju (a form of Chinese opera) adaptation of the story was translated into French in the 18th century.
The most well-known version of the story of the Orphan of Zhao is set in the state of Jin, in the Spring and Autumn Period. During the reign of Duke Ling of Jin, the Duke plotted to assassinate Zhao Dun, the Minister of the State, with whom he had a rivalry, as Zhao tried to give constructive advice to the Duke, who was a terrible leader. Zhao later escaped the assassination attempt while the Duke was murdered by Zhao’s brother, in a rebellion movement. After that, Zhao Dun resumed his position as the right-hand man of the Duke’s successor – Duke Jing of Jin. But then, Tu’an Gu, a general and another subordinate of the Emperor, harbored a deep hatred for Zhao out of jealousy, so he decided to frame Zhao Dun for regicide, which lead to the execution of Zhao, and the rest of the Zhao clan.
During the mass killings, Zhao Shuo, the son of Zhao Dun, instructed his pregnant wife, who was a princess of the Jin state and therefore temporarily exempted from the execution order of the Zhao clan, to give birth to their child back at the palace. If the child was a son, she was to do whatever was necessary to save his life. Later, after Zhao Shuo’s death and the birth of his son, the princess escorted the son to one of the trusted allies of the family – Cheung Ying the physician, before committing suicide like her husband did.
The merciless Tu threatened to kill all infants under the age of 6 months old, in order to search for the whereabouts of the orphan. Cheung soon sought the support from an elder Minister, Gongsun Chujiu. Both devised a plan to sacrifice the son of Gongsun, which resulted in the death of both Gongsun and his son. Later, Cheung decided to adopt and raise the orphan as his own child, naming him Zhao Wu.
Later, the ailing Duke Jing of Jin was told by court diviners that his illness was the result of killing the wrong person. Han Jue, who was a senior minister and a close friend of the Zhao family, then told the truth of events to the Duke. Zhao Wu, who was now grown up, was then summoned to the palace. The Duke allowed the only heir of the Zhao family to restore the reputation and wealth of the Zhao family, and avenge the whole family by executing Tu at the end.
The legend of the Orphan of Zhao was based on the historical records from the Spring and Autumn period (771 to 476 BC) . The first written records on the rivalry between Duke Ling of Jin and Zhao Dun can be found in the excerpts of Zuo Zhuan in the section “Jin Linggong bujun” (translated to mean “The Duke Ling of Jin does not follow the rules of a king”), in which Zhao Dun had to bear the false accusations of regicide after the ruler was assassinated. In a later section of Zuo Zhuan, “Lu Chenggong ba nian”, the whole process of the massacre, in contrast to the popular opera version, was not the result of Tu’an Gu (who does not yet appear at this point in historical records), but was the result of the betrayal of family members, and other rival groups.
When the story was featured in the Han dynasty Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) by Sima Qian, two versions of the story were recorded. A version similar to the one in Zuo Zhuan was featured in the section "House of Jin" in Records of the Grand Historian. In another section of Records of the Grand Historian, called "House of Zhao," the characters of Tu'an Gu and Cheung Ying are introduced, with Tu’an Gu being the schemer of the whole tragedy, and Cheung Ying being the savior and adoptive father of the orphan. The version from the "House of Zhao" in Shiji eventually became the source material from which the playwright Ji Junchang transformed the story into a folk Opera during the Yuan Dynasty, promoting the tale further to the general public and the rest of the world, with the first translations done by the French Jesuit Missionary, Joseph Henri Prémare in 1731 during his stay in China.
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